Disclaimer: I own none of the characters, and all the good stuff comes for J.K. Rowling. I make no profit from this story.

Author's Note: This came on a whim, when I realized I wanted to see more of a grown-up Hermione with Snape. If interested, please email me! And finally, remember: Constructive criticism is very welcome, but flaming is not. Truth be told, I am a little rusty. Please review!

S~H~S~H

Surviving Nagini's bite had changed Severus Snape. Although still moody, for that would never just go away, he was grateful for what he did have: a life. Even if it was a dark and lonely one. Somewhere in the back of his mind there was a spark of hope he dared never to dream about. But, if he could survive what he had, he could definitely survive loneliness. Besides, he had a secret purpose that he lived for, and that was to find the Auror who'd saved him just in time. At this rate, she seemed like an elusive mythical creature even Wizarding books didn't know of.

And so it was with shock and surprise that Severus ran into an Auror in a small pub in Diagon Alley. Literally ran into her, for neither of them had been watching their step. Her scent had caught his attention before her astonishing looks did, for it seemed somewhat familiar. Which was unusual, because no woman's scent could be so familiar to him, so welcomed by his senses.

And then she gazed up at him for no more than a mere second, and Severus's breath hitched. She was so utterly beautiful that it hurt. Her long, brown tresses had red tints that sparkled in the low light of the pub. Her honey-brown eyes stood out starkly against her smooth face and dark eyebrows; eyes that seemed familiar even if the rest of her appearance did not. Her lips… Merlin, she was delectable. But all too soon she had looked away, murmured "Pardon," and marched around him, leaving him to stare at her retreating form. She was out the door before he could blink.

From then on he hadn't managed to put her out of his mind. He felt like he was half-crazed when he actually had an idea to go to the Ministry and make his way to the Auror Office. Instead, each night he went to the pub, waiting for her to return.

On a particularly lonely night, he sat at the bar in the Three Broomsticks drinking Firewhiskey. His old colleague, Minerva McGonagall, came in with a large group, spotted him, and made nice, but he hadn't been able to bear it. He told her he needed to use the loo and would probably leave after, and wished her a good night.

When he came back, gathering his cloak and preparing to take his leave, he heard a tinkling laughter rise from among all the noise in the pub. His head turned as if it had a will of its own to see the Auror from the other night sitting with McGonagall, as well as a few others he couldn't make out from where he was standing. Too intrigued to just walk away, and not concerned at all for his dignity (he barely had any since the war, anyway), he drew closer to their table.

The Auror had her hair back from her face, but the end of her ponytail rested on her shoulder in an utterly feminine way. Her eyes were enchanting as they sparkled with mirth from whatever jokes she'd heard. Her smile was dazzling as she turned to listen to the young man sitting next to her. A red-haired, freckled… blast, another Auror, and none other than Ronald Weasley himself.

Severus's attention rested on the other young man at their table, sitting on the other side of his Auror. He, too, wore the official robes of an Auror. On further examination, as he suspected, it was Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived Twice, and his arm was slung around the woman Auror's shoulders as if she were his property. But then, Potter's other arm was also around a red-headed woman sitting on his other side. Who knew Potter was a swinger? But Severus loathed the idea that Potter was swinging with the elusive Auror who'd been in his thoughts for several weeks.

He focused on her now, watching her feign irritation with the stupidity of the jokes before erupting into that tinkling laughter again. Something about that smile, something about the crinkle to her nose… His eyes rested on the curls over her shoulder and he felt his brain trying to make a very important connection.

Suddenly, Minerva turned toward him with surprise. She smiled indulgently. "Severus!" she greeted enthusiastically, waving him forward. He said no in his brain, but his feet moved him toward their table. "How lovely! Severus, you should join us."

"Us?" Severus questioned sardonically, hoping to find out more about his Auror without being overly eager.

"Surely you remember your fellow students, and more importantly your fellow comrades from the war!" Her voice had turned into a high soprano. He suspected Minerva had had a little too much to drink already.

He pretended to be slightly surprised in seeing Potter, and his voice dripped with acid as he spoke. "Ah, Mr. Potter… so nice to…"

"It's Auror Potter," the young man said defiantly, his face no longer filled with happiness as it had been just a few moments ago.

Severus watched the woman Auror place a hand on Harry's forearm and calm him. "Harry, he very nearly died trying to protect us all. Show some respect," she suggested, and leaned back away from her friend.

Severus felt like balking - no one had ever stood up for him before - but instead raised a brow. "Potter, I don't believe I've had the pleasure of being introduced to your friend," he said smoothly, not taking his eyes off the young woman who seemed to be mighty uncomfortable now, shifting in her seat.

He saw all the faces look increasingly bewildered and annoyed with him, and hated being on the receiving end of that, rather than the giving.

McGonagall spoke then, when she realized no one else was going to say anything. "Surely, Severus, you remember your savior, Hermione Granger?"

Severus did balk then. The insufferable know-it-all had rescued him? The insufferable know-it-all was this astonishingly sexy? It was almost enough for him to proclaim himself mad and turn himself into St. Mungo's.

"Miss… Miss Granger," he managed, not believing what he was saying. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of thanking you properly," he stated, blurting out the first piece of crap that came to his mind. He wanted Granger, but he certainly didn't want that revealed yet.

Hermione bit her lower lip, an action he found too seductive for her own good. "I assure you it's not necessary, Sir." He saw her move slightly, and from the grimace on Weasley's face, he assumed it was a swift kick to the shins. Whatever that was about.

"Nevertheless," Severus pushed on, slapping his hands to the table and leaning forward over it to be closer to her, "I'd like to take you out; perhaps dinner tomorrow night?" He ignored the others' disgusted faces, as well as Minerva's suddenly happy squeaks about the prospect and her applauding at his efforts.

When Hermione didn't answer, he leaned away. "Eight o'clock, then," he announced, and swirled around to depart.

Hermione called after him. "I didn't say yes!" Her voice sounded haughty, sexy to him. He didn't turn around, just kept walking. But a smirk did come to his face as he exited.